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27/07/2012 The Sabvabaa hovercraft has set sail on a research mission from Svalbard to the North Pole. The Fram 2012 expedition is the first – and northernmost – polar expedition ever undertaken with such a vessel.
Gaute Hope (left) and Yngve Kristoffersen are on the Fram 2012 expedition with the Sabvabaa hovercraft (from Inuit; floats quickly over ....). The beam in front of the boat is an instrument which measures ice thickness.
The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) is a financial sponsor of the expedition. The participants in the Fram 2012 expedition are Professor Emeritus Yngve Kristoffersen (Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre and Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bergen) and student Gaute Hope (Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bergen).
“The expedition has measured the ice thickness from the ice edge to the area near the North Pole. Most of the ice south of 83 N is from last year, with a tickness of one and one and a half metres,” writes Yngve Kristoffersen in an email to the NPD.
In addition to measuring sea ice thickness, Sabvabaa will collect seismic data and take geological samples of the seabed.
The 12-metre long and six-metre wide Sabvabaa hovercraft was deployed from the Norbjørn freight vessel on the ice edge at 80 50’ north, 15 east, on Wednesday, 18 July.
“It’s a very special feeling to fly over the ice on a hovercraft, over bumps and through openings in pressure ridges. Effective progress north is six-seven knots when ice conditions are good, and four-five knots when the ice is broken up by multiple pressure ridges. The progress may be a latitude per day when the visibility and the ice are good,” writes Kristoffersen.
About 30 nautical miles into the ice, the expedition encountered the Lance research vessel, where a group of biologists and young scientists from a total of 11 nations were carrying out biological sampling of fauna and flora in ice and water. The work is headed by researcher Stig Falk-Pedersen.
The frequency of old ice increased north of 83 N, and from 84 20'N there was only ice that was several years old. Weather conditions are characterized by much fog and poor visibility. Sabvabaa has not yet reached 84 40' N, 13 E. The icebreaker Oden arrives on Friday 3 August. The vessels will then continue north together to the work area for the seabed surveys, a bit past the North Pole.
The expedition has encountered both seals and polar bears on their journey north.
The Arctic Ocean consists of two deep water basins, the Amerasian basin and the Eurasian basin, which are separated by the Lomonosov ridge. The area for this year’s data acquisition with Sabvabaa is marked with a white square.